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What the Dog Saw

You know the story. On August 7, 1998, two Al Qaeda suicide bombers detonated a massive truck filled with explosives outside the US Embassy. At around the same time, at 10.30a.m., a similar bombing was happening in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The Nairobi bombing recorded 213 deaths and thousands of casualties, the majority from the neighboring building, The Co-operative Bank Building. It housed several more people in its high-rise architectural wonder of glass and was not bomb-resistant, not like the US embassy. 

The story you might not know, is that US intelligence were well aware of the imminent attack months before it happened. They had identified an Al Qaeda cell in Kenya and were surveilling its members. They had an eight-page letter written by an Al Qaeda operative talking about bomb makers coming to Nairobi.

Kenyan intelligence had also warned US intelligence about this plan to attack. In fact, the November before – in 1997 – a man who worked for Al Qaeda had walked into the US embassy itself and told US intelligence about the plan to blow it up. 

Prudence Bushnell, the US ambassador to Kenya at the time, had written to the US begging for more security. I remember that she had also begged them to relocate the embassy to outside the CBD.

After the bombing attack, Washington called her and asked her, How could this have happened? 

Bushnell was mortified. She said, But I wrote you a letter!

~

This story is not mine, I have borrowed it from a book I just finished reading. 

The book is ‘What the Dog Saw’ by Malcolm Gladwell. I am sure you know Malcolm Gladwell. Or have heard of him. He wrote that book that became popular. Rather, the concept from the book of 10,000 hours became popular. ‘The Outliers.’

Malcolm here posited that to be really good at something – no matter if it is writing, cooking, running, fooling around – then you must put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. 

I have not read ‘The Outliers’ yet. I will read it last, after I have read all of Malcolm’s other books. Reading it last will be my rebellion to the pop culture trend. (I know, ha-ha, I am being silly. And petty.)

Anyway, this story about the August 7 bombing is from What the Dog Saw’. The story goes into great detail about terrorist attacks and suicide bombings across the world. 

Malcolm asks the question we all ask after the bombings: Our country’s intelligence knew about these imminent attacks yet they didn’t do anything to stop them. Why? 

I will let you read the book to get the answer to this question. It turns out that connecting the dots from the intelligence collected to stopping the attacks is not as straightforward as you and I imagine it to be. 

Malcolm is a fascinating storyteller. He is also not a lazy writer, either – he does his research, interviews the people behind the scenes, crunches the numbers. His appetite for looking underneath the hood of the car and tearing the greasy engine apart screw by screw, is geeky and beautiful.

Aside from this story about the terrorist attacks, he also looks into the story of a man whose job is to calm the angriest and meanest of animals with the just touch of his hand. Malcolm is not interested in how the man calms these troubled dogs and whatnot, he is more interested in what the dogs see when the master is working his magic.

Malcolm also looks at the inventor of the birth control pill, what this inventor – a Catholic priest – didn’t know about women’s health. 

He looks into the art of failure. Into the myth of talent, where he asks the question, ‘Are smart people overrated?’

(What do you think? Are they overrated?)

Malcolm writes about the shortcomings of job interviews, about knowing how to hire when you can’t tell who is right for the job from just the interview. He calls it the quarterback problem – the problem is that there are jobs such as teaching where you can’t predict how the teachers will do until they are in the classroom teaching your children for an entire school year.

My favourite story in the book is Late Bloomers: it is about people who don’t make it until they are in their 40s and 50s. There are even some paragraphs toward the end of that chapter that make me bawl my eyes out like a little girl. 

My second favourite story is about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Malcom asks, Who can be blamed for such a disaster?

‘What the Dog Saw’ is a wonderful book and I suggest you get it.

You will read it slowly, a chapter at most a day, perhaps even half of it. You will find yourself looking up from the page every so often to mull over something Malcolm has said. 

You will sometimes become overwhelmed with all the names and numbers and places he mentions. Sometimes so much that you put the book aside or skim over those parts.

You will catch yourself throwing in some of his ideas over a drink with your pals. Or you will be going through a life experience where you will find yourself asking, What would Malcom think about this? How would he write about it?

Most of all, you will endlessly recommend the book to others, as I have you. 

Cop your copy from Half Priced Bookshop. It’s 800 bob there.

PS. I don’t listen to podcasts because I’m a visual learner. I prefer reading books and pictures. And crunching numbers, of course. Word on the streets is that Malcolm’s podcast is just as riveting as his books are.

The podcast is called ‘Revisionist History’.

Give it a whirl. 

An edited version of this story first ran in the Saturday Nation on July 23, 2022. It ran under my ‘Culture’ column.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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@_craftit
Florence Bett-Kinyatti

@_craftit

Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,
Me

#craftit
  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Anyway.

To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 

Ha-ha.

No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.

Ha!

It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)

(Ahem.)

The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker
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